Air Pollution Complaints in China's Capital Doubles in 5 Months

Jun 16, 2014 06:01 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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Complaints regarding air pollution in Beijing have doubled in the first five months of 2014, according to the city environment authority.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Bureau said on June 13 that 12,599 formal complaints about smog were lodged by members of the public from January to May.

The number represents a 124 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013.

Smog was involved in approximately 72.6 percent of the total number of environment-related complaints submitted to the Beijing authorities from January to May, the environmental bureau said according to Reuters.

China's leaders have been eager to show that they are on the public's side in the fight against pollution, by setting up hotlines, rapid response teams, task forces, and urging people to participate in campaigns against violators.

Authorities are required to ensure accountability and transparency and also promises to improve access to the court system for those who are harmed by pollution, according to a newly amended environmental law.

In a different notice, the Beijing environmental bureau said over 114 firms have been punished in June after its latest week-long campaign targeting environmental violations in the catering, car manufacturing and car repair divisions.

The firms were ordered to pay a total of 2.45 million yuan ($394,600) in fines, according to the notice.

A new smartphone app was introduced last week called "Pollution Information Transparency Index" that comes from two environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York and the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The app app allows users to monitor air quality in 190 cities to check for nearby pollution produced by Chinese factories.

"If the air quality is bad you can switch (to the factory map) and see who is in your neighborhood," Gu Beibei, senior project manager at IPE, said to The New York Times. "It will be a very effective tool for people to voice out their concerns."

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